One major concern for cat owners interested in getting a new cat is having the new and old cats get along. Unfortunately, knowing how to introduce cats and kittens can be more of an art than a science. It involves knowing your existing cat’s personality and reading both cats’ body language. It also involves a whole lot of patience. Fortunately, we have tried and true practices to help set your fur babies up for the best introduction possible and help them live peacefully in the same household.
Keep reading to learn the best ways to introduce cats and provide a safe space for them. Let’s get into it!
Introducing New Cats Can Be Nerve-Wracking
We understand that introducing a new cat to your current cat can be nerve-wracking. But the more calm and patient you are, the easier it will be. Cats are sensitive and can pick up on our stress or anxiety. So, prepping yourself before bringing home a kitten or new cat will help you feel more confident and inevitably help you and your pets adjust.
Once you’re prepped and ready to introduce the cats, it can be an exciting time.
How Do You Introduce New Cats?
We’ve compiled methods from experts and personal experience for how to introduce new cats. From prepping your house and catifying it to learning how to identify red flags, this guide will help you help your cats get along.
Prep Your House Before the New Cat Arrives
Prepping your house before a new cat arrives is an essential first step in introducing cats. Even if you’ve had a cat for years, areas of the house may need cat-proofing, especially for introducing kittens.
Also, get everyone in the house used to doing things such as shutting the toilet lid. While your current cat may have learned not to drink out of the toilet, the new addition will need some time. Bringing a new cat home will require the same prep and attention as when you welcomed your other pets.
Get the Cats on a Schedule and Stick to It
Anytime you bring a new cat home, getting it on a schedule and sticking to a routine helps it acclimate. It also benefits you, particularly if you work outside of the house. But it can also help bond the cats you’re introducing.
If your existing cat is currently free-feeding, many behaviorists recommend stopping that and putting it on a schedule. Having the cats on the same schedule can let them know they each get the same treatment, particularly during mealtime. And if you have indoor-outdoor cats, letting them outdoors at the same time can help build a cohesive household rather than if they were on opposite schedules.
Get Rid of Enclosed Litter Boxes
If you’re a fan of Jackson Galaxy the Cat Daddy, you’ve probably heard him mention the enclosed litter box ambush problem. Especially with new cats, a hooded litter box can feel like a trap. If the litter box becomes an unsafe place, the cats may stop using it.
Create a Separate Space for Each
You’ll also need to prepare a sanctuary room separate from your other cat. This room should have your new cat’s own food and water dishes, toys, and litter box. This allows the cat to establish a territorial link to its new location. It also prevents both cats from having to share or adjust too quickly. At this stage, you should not let the two cats see each other at all.
The next 3 stages of the introduction process can take a while. First, you have them share scents. Second, they can see each other, but not touch. Finally, once they are fine with sight, you can put them into the same room.
Once your new kitty seems to have settled into the new space and isn’t too stressed, you can start introducing both cats to the scent of the other. You can do this by rubbing blankets or towels on each cat and letting the other sniff it in their own space. Alternatively, you can have the cats swap areas. This gives them time to really check out everything the other cat has going on. If at any point they seem freaked out or stressed, swap them back. Increase duration until they are both comfortable with the other space and the associated smells.
Many cat behaviorists also recommend feeding both cats on either side of the doorway separating them. Start farther apart, then slowly work them closer together each meal time until they are essentially eating next to each other on either side of the door. If at any point they are upset, move the dishes further apart and start over. This process creates a positive association with the other kitty by linking it to meal time.
Introduce Eye Contact
Once your cats seem okay with each other’s smells, they are probably ready to introduce eye contact. Set up a screen door or baby gate between the sanctuary room and the rest of the house to let them size each other up from a distance. Do not let them touch each other at this point.
Start over with feeding and gradually bring them closer. if the eye contact is too much, you can use a blanket or sheet as a thinner barrier and slowly raise it over time.
So the “real” introduction really shouldn’t happen until days or even weeks after you bring your new cat or kitten home. Your kitties will let you know their pace, and it is your job to read their body language to understand their comfort.
When they do finally meet without a barrier, you should give both cats something to do. Whether it is eating, playing, or cuddling, you should have both cats engaged in the same room doing separate things. If at any point the cats lock onto each other, and it looks like there will be a scuffle, separate them and try again tomorrow. Slowly, the duration of together time without issue will increase, but it is important not to rush it.
Lead Their Interactions
Be the leader of your household by facilitating your cats’ interactions. Take out a toy and play with both of them. Have them eat together, but be sure to supervise. Your focus now is on creating a positive association between the two of them, along with keeping them on the same schedule. You’re also giving them something to do rather than leaving them to their own devices.
Catify Your House
Cat expert, Jackson Galaxy, introduced catification to the world. Catifying your house means making a feline-friendly environment. And with more than one cat, it also means giving them space to get away from each other, such as separate litter boxes and a space they can claim as their own. For example, give each cat its own bed, perch, and place to climb to explore the vertical world. Jackson suggests that it fosters a feeling of comfort, confidence, and security.
Watch for Any Red Flags
Keep an eye out for red flags when introducing cats or kittens. Warning signs of dislike or a fight brewing between two felines is typically sniffing, pawing, growling, flattened ears, or hissing. These may be indicators that it’s not time to let go of their separate spaces. Again, the cats will let you know when they’re ready to be friends, or at least tolerate each other.
In addition, if either of your cats has health issues, be sure to protect that cat from anything that may harm it. For example, if your cat is recovering from surgery and you introduce a new kitten into the house, it’s better to keep them separated. The kitten’s energy likely isn’t what the doctor ordered.
Stay Calm and Patient, But Active
Staying calm and patient when introducing cats is key. Pets pick up on our behaviors, especially if we’re stressed. So, keeping cool and quiet during the cats’ interactions may help them start to keep their cool around each other.
However, you, as the human, have a job to do in all of this. Do not let your cats call the shots. If you’re reading their body language and you see tension coming on, do something to intercept it. Get out the toys and play, or get out the treats and redirect. Also, if you need to take a few steps back in the introduction process, do it for the long-term relationship you’re cultivating.
If you have one younger cat that has a higher energy level, you will need to give that cat independent play time to wear it out. Excess energy can often be directed at your other, lower-energy cat who doesn’t find it as amusing.
Will They Hurt Each Other?
Fear of whether introducing cats will start a fight is a valid concern and probably the biggest one. It may take some time, but most cats become friends or at least tolerate each other. However, some cats might get into squabbles. This aggression may be territorial or personality. It’s unlikely they’ll actually hurt each other, but that’s why introducing them with methods we discuss in this article is essential.
When you introduce a kitten to an older cat, it can feel particularly risky. This is because of the fear that it’s small and could get hurt by an older cat who is bigger and stronger. Senior cats may also be uncomfortable with a kitten, causing them to act out as if it’s an intruder.
While real fights are possible, most are displays of dominance that result in fear or hurt pride rather than blood. This is still not good, and you need to go back to the drawing board on the introduction steps and monitoring.
Will My Cat Accept a New Kitten?
Helping your cat accept a new kitten will take some time, energy, and patience, but it is possible. Kittens are high energy, especially when they reach the “teenager” stage from around 6 months to over a year. So, you’ll want to provide your kitten with plenty of exercises to save your older cat some grief.
A way to help senior cats accept a new kitten is to get more than one. The two kittens are more likely to play with and pester each other than the older cat. Giving the kitten an equal companion may also relieve some of your stress by keeping a young, energetic feline busy. Just be sure to adopt litter mates so the kittens are already comfortable with each other.
How Long Does It Take for Cats to Get Used to Each Other?
On average, cats get used to each other within a few weeks of introductions. But it can take a lot longer. It depends on the cats. As we’ve discussed, age can play a role. A senior cat will likely adjust slowly to a new pet in the house, especially if you introduce a kitten. It could take months for the cats to be friendly.
Don’t be alarmed if your cats don’t see eye to eye within the first few weeks. Give them time and try the techniques in this article. Patience will be your friend through it all.
Suggested Reading: Learn how to introduce your cat to dogs.
Provide Your Cats With a Safe Space
Providing your cats with a safe space will help them feel comfortable with each other. Introducing cats can be nerve-wracking, but be consistent and hopeful, and they’ll get along in no time with a good environment. Having more than one cat is so much fun. And when they start keeping each other company and playing, it’s adorable!
Do you have more than one cat? What was it like introducing them? Share your story in the comments below.
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